|Dunedin at sunset|
Two students at Cumberland College believed they saw the apparition in their residence hallway. Their story has sent many of the students into a panic with dozens of them sleeping with their lights on. A chaplain was asked to reassert the presence of God. Even a kaumatua, a respected Maori tribal elder, was called in.
The Grey Lady has been a part of Dunedin's myth for more than 140 years. It dates back to now-closed Queen Mary Hospital, which opened in the 1850s. The ghost was said to be that of a woman who had had her child taken from her after she was declared an unfit mother. She died shortly thereafter and, according to the legend, took to haunting the nurse she held responsible and who resided in what is now Cumberland College. Back then it was still a nurses' home.
In a tale that has hit the national airwaves, the two students said they saw a dark figure, noticed an awful smell and felt "a cold whoosh of air" pass them. That set town tongues a-wagging.
One person making the most of this boon is Andrew Smith, the owner-operator of a local Dunedin ghost tours operation. He's been widely quoted in the national media. Though he seems a likable enough fellow, with a sensible head on his shoulders, he certainly seems to be making hay from this situation.
I certainly found myself transported by sights and sounds when I was in Dunedin, but it was more by nostalgia than wraiths. Wandering the streets there of an early morning, I could have been in an old and odd hybrid of Glasgow and Edinburgh. It's not just the names of the streets, the heraldry on the grand old buildings of a familiar architecture - not even the barely detectable burr in some of the locals' diction. No, it was the surroundings. The old Scottish immigrants who were the backbone of the city could really have been forgiven for thinking they'd sailed around the world only to end up back in the home country. The dampness. The screech of gulls on a rainy evening. The rolling, brush-covered hills. The darkness of the inhospitable ocean. The majestic statue of Robert Burns. It all has sheen of Scotland to it.
As for the Grey Lady, I'll let others tell her tale. A lot of ghost experts seem to have arisen overnight.